Artist Residency at the 70th Anniversary German Jazz Festival: Afterthoughts

I'm incredibly humbled and honored to have been an artist in residence at the 70th anniversary Deutsches Jazz Festival 2023 as part of ‘The Art of Uncertainty’, led by Torsten de Winkel.

I think this definitely qualifies as a milestone of sorts in my artistic journey. I've been blessed with some very fulfilling collaborations and stage appearances in the past. But this was different.

To start off with, this wasn't quite the ‘regular’ Jazz festival. But the 70th anniversary of one of Europe's oldest Jazz festivals, the first edition of which was in 1953, just 8 years after the end of World War II. The historical relevance of the same, especially in the zeitgeist not something to underestimate. 

But there's more. 

Torsten De Winkel, Karim Ziad, Kai Eckhardt - these are the fathers of global European Jazz. 
With contributions etched into its history in a way that has shaped my musical journey intimately and deeply (Kai was also a mentor for a significant part of my career back in the day. He even wrote liner notes for my sophomore album BUeC).
So getting to be part of their vortex? It was a pretty intense experience. 
Not to forget my dear friend legendary composer and probably one of my favorite horn players in the entire world currently, Kike Perdomo, and celebrated pianist Gwilym Simcock, as well. 
I am reminded of the time Pete Lockett described his memory of hearing Zakir Hussain play for the first time on my podcast. Describing it as being hit with a thousand tasers of positive energy. That's what the experience felt like on a lot of days. I don't think I've been in a room with so many masters exuding that kind of energy in one go. 
It was also a lot more complex to handle than one thinks, as I found myself oscillating between a feeling of knowing I'd waited for a day like this all my life as a part of my artistic journey, and handling negotiations gracefully with my old friend, imposter syndrome.
Additionally turns out I was the only artist representing South Asia on the entire bill. In fact, after digging deeper, it looks like I might have been the first South Asian artist in almost a decade, since Vijay Iyer and Rudresh Mahanthappa played in 2007.  Previous artists of South Asian origin at this festival had been Trilok Gurtu during his performance with Joe Zawinul in 1994.
This is of special significance to me personally. 
I'm not a tabla or sitar player. Or even a mainstream jazz player brandishing be-bop mastery in all 12 keys. I'm an Indie Singer-Songwriter whose studies and background in jazz and Indian music tended to make him too ‘complex’ for the average pop listener. And too ‘exotic’ for the regular jazz listener without being ‘exotic enough’ to qualify as a diversity token. 
My brand of struggle as an arrist has been a very specific one to find acceptance in these circles, as a hyphenated cultural being and an alternative jazz artist whose body of work has been an unconscious endeavor to challenge that word on both cultural and musical levels. 
(L-R: Kike Perdomo, Kai Eckhardt, Jonathan Cunado, Gwilym Simcock, Moi, Karim Ziad, Torsten De Winkel, Rhani Krija)
Two weeks before the concert, I was in bed with the flu in Goa, listening to my friend and long-time collaborator Torsten talk about his vision for this special 70th-anniversary concert on a podcast. I had absolutely no clue I was about to be invited as one of the featured artists on the bill. 
The rehearsals during the three-day residency at the renowned Hr2 Studios in Frankfurt were as intense as they were enjoyable. The concept behind the approach really was making art amidst uncertainty. 
And I'd like to think we embraced this with open hearts and a fearlessness that is the kind of artistic environment I strive to be a part of. 

If you're in the EU, you can currently stream the entire concert on ArteTV HERE.

For my friends in other parts of the world, I've put a private link together here from my solo feature which you can watch HERE.